Jun. 02, 2017 UPDATE
The Best Ways to Find Antiques in Kyoto
Part 1


Did you know that Kyoto’s most historic temples and shrines hold big events each month? These are colloquially referred to as Kobosan and Tenjinsan. Kobosan and Tenjinsan are Kyoto’s two largest antique and flea markets, with both having upwards of 1,000 shops exhibiting and several tens of thousands of visitors. Not only do they have antiques on view, but you will find trees and shrubbery, handmade craft goods, and even pickled foods, fruit, and other comestibles on sale. It’s fun to walk the grounds and see the various stalls. With so many stores and shops at the fair, you are sure to find a new prized possession to take home with you. Not only that, but the antiques exhibitors are all pros, so you can find the real deal. Dealers from around Japan come to these markets, so there is a high likelihood you will find a one-of-a-kind article unique to that day.

If you really want to get into antiques in Kyoto, you have to hit up Kobosan and Tenjinsan. First get your feet wet by taking part in these events and experience what it’s like to browse antiques in a large-scale format.

Having visited these markets, we at Sharing Kyoto can say this: Kobosan is best for those with an experienced and discerning eye for quality, while Tenjinsan is great for everyone from beginners to pros. Let’s break down how to get the most out of these events and explain what makes them different. So what are you waiting for? Let’s Go to the Antique Markets!
Peel your eyes for a vessel that meets your exacting standards! Kobosan is definitely recommended for those with an eye for quality
We’ll begin with an intro to Kobosan, the market that’s geared towards advanced antiques aficionados.

Kobosan, formally called Kobo-ichi, is held monthly on the 21st at Toji Temple.
This market started out quite simply as a fair for tea vendors, but as more people came to visit, a wider variety of shops appeared, and it grew into the large and wide-ranging market it is today. It has been familiarly referred to as Kobosan by locals for over 700 years. Even on weekdays, it gets over 100,000 visitors.
Over 1,200 stalls exhibit at this market. The streets are crammed with stalls selling antiques, textiles, food, and more. Far and away the largest presence is taken up by antiques dealers. The area at the center of the shrine precinct is where all of the antiques shops congregate. You will find the kinds of vessels used in Japan since ancient times, exotic Asian lifestyle goods, and many more antiques of all types.
Kobosan is a traditional event long beloved by locals, and it is particularly recommended for antiques aficionados.
The antiques sold here are comparatively more expensive, too. The dealers are all professionals, so everything here is genuine, fine antiques. Sharpen your sensibilities and mull over the selections to find the very best antique for you. If you are an enthusiast of refined antiques, Kobosan is definitely the best place for you.
Casual and enjoyable Tenjinsan is the place to get your feet wet
Tenjinsan is great in that it has a comparatively casual mood that makes it good for everyone.

Tenjinsan, or Tenjin-ichi, is held on the 25th of each month on the grounds of the Kitano Tenman-gu shrine.
Like Kobosan, Tenjinsan started as a street fair for shrine parishioners to enjoy tea and drinks.
As with Kobosan, this market has over 1,000 shops lining the precinct!
Kitano tenmangu
Pass through the torii gate and onto the main route to find various street stalls with games like target practice, food, and more. To the east are the antiques and vintage clothing shops, and to the west are the bonsai and shrubbery shops. Each area tends to have a specific type of shop in it.
The signature aspect of Tenjinsan is its casual atmosphere and the reasonable prices.
At Tenjinsan, there are many items priced at the few-hundred yen mark, so it’s easy and approachable for anyone, no matter the size of your pocketbook. You will also find everything from genuine antiques to cute and unique ceramics by contemporary artists. The variety is great and appeals to everyone. You will find many young couples and visitors from overseas. It’s a great environment for beginners to antiques.
If you are just getting started in antiques, don’t know what kind of ceramics are out there, or want to train your eye further, first hit up Tenjinsan! This is your chance to casually learn about antiques.
Share-K Secrets: 3 key ways to enjoy antiques markets
We hope you’ve gotten a sense about what makes Kobosan and Tenjinsan, Kyoto’s two greatest antiques markets, different. Now that you’ve picked which one to visit, we want to impart the unique Share-K style of visiting the fairs.
Just going aimlessly and roaming around is a waste! Since you’ve made up your mind to go, you have to enjoy every last corner of the market. Based on our visits to these fairs, we want to share with you some ways to get more out of them. Keep these points in mind when visiting Kobosan and Tenjinsan!
1If you’ve come for antiques, you’ve got to take it seriously! Aim to arrive between 8 and 10 AM!
Antiques markets
Antiques markets are held from sunrise to sundown (it’s a bit ambiguous, we admit!). You may think this means you have time to spare, but you can’t let down your guard!
The best items sell out right from early morning. Furthermore, shops that open in the morning may decide to pack up if the weather turns foul or if they don’t have many wares left. Quite a few leave by noon.
That’s why we at Sharing Kyoto, with our expertise in going to both of these events, recommend the 8 AM to 10 AM mark.
If you want to carefully sample the wares and select something thoughtfully, early morning is best.
2To get 120% enjoyment out of the fair, you must stop by the food stalls!
Kobosan and Tenjinsan are considered Kyoto’s two greatest antiques fairs.
There is much more to these fairs than just antiques. Another thing that makes them great is all of the food stalls that line the precinct.
The road that spans from the Keiga-mon gates of Toji Temple is where all of the shops congregate at Kobosan. At Tenjinsan, the area from the torii gate on straight through is where the food sellers ply their wares.
In Japan, festivals are always home to these stalls selling the Japanese version of “junk food,” and they offer unique classic wares beloved by the common folk. The typical approach is to snack while you eat. There’s something about eating freshly-cooked fried chicken, french fries, and grilled corn in this context that makes them taste even more delicious. The greasy and rich flavor of food served up by stalls is pretty addictive, you have to admit. One of the pleasures of these outdoor events is sharing a snack with your friends, significant other, or family.
Chogoro Mochi
Another unique aspect of temple and shrine festivals is that you can shop for local foods only available in the region.
Pictured is Chogoro Mochi sold at Tenjinsan. These shops are a staple of Tenjinsan and offer genuine mochi sweets in the classical style -- these were served to Toyotomi Hideyoshi 400 years ago when he held a tea event in Kitano. The tiny and thin mochi sweets feature smooth red bean paste inside.
The shops selling Chogoro Mochi have space in the back where you can enjoy it with matcha tea, so they’re a big hit among visitors. The dainty size of the mochi, the flavor, and everything about it are elegant and the perfect way to enjoy a little break from browsing the shops.
In the colder months, it’s always nice to eat some mochi, take a tipple of sweet sake, and warm up body and soul while you peruse the fair.
3Going once is never enough! You’ll want to hit the antiques fairs two, even three times!
antiques fairs
The third way we at Sharing Kyoto like to enjoy antiques fairs is going back again and again to the monthly markets.
After all, the signature trait of Kobosan and Tenjinsan is that they’re held like clockwork every month. Not only that, but you can find the same shops in the same spaces. That means that you can regularly go back and become a regular of a shop, which will help you refine your taste and get acquainted with numerous shops. Before long, you’ll be having a blast with antiques.
We highly recommend going back to the fairs for more.
Take Shiho, for example -- she was a bit reluctant to get close to this bronze cow statue, located at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, where Tenjinsan is held. After a few visits, she took a liking to him. Legend says that you can rub his head to get smarter. Shiho, as a writer at Sharing Kyoto, couldn’t resist the prospect of enhancing her brainpower!
Thus far, we’ve discussed which fair is best for you, whether you’re a beginner or a real aficionado.
But your antiques journey in Kyoto is just getting started! In the next section, we select five antiques shops that we can absolutely recommend 100% -- these are places where you will find your new favorite item! After developing a bit of connoisseurship at Kobosan and Tenjinsan, you can go to the shops to test your mettle, or you can simply travel through Kyoto in search of great Japanese-style antiques. So without further ado, let’s find the perfect antiques shop for you!

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